I’ve found myself in a conundrum of making a tough decision: should I or should I not take a gap year?
To understand this question you need to understand my situation (p.s it’s looong):
So I’m an international student in my final year of high school (A-Level Year 2) and we’re supposed to be applying this application season (I.e applications for fall 2024). I’ve made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of poor planning that have culminated in a rather poor application. I am not satisfied with my current application, since I require substantial financial aid and want to study at a top college. For me as an international, low income, non first Gen, non legacy, requiring substantial aid, the admission chances are especially skim. I want to put my best foot forward and really want to study in the US. I don’t like any of the programmes offered at my national unis. But another thing is that I’m not sure about my major. I know us colleges allow you to change majors and all, but even that doesn’t mean anything in terms of career satisfaction. How would I know from studying a few introductory courses what I want my professional life to be like? I’d always been certain that I wanted to do CS, but as of recently not so much. I have a childhood interest in aviation but I always thought that career prospects were tight and I wouldn’t really enjoy it. There’s no other career I can imagine myself in other than CS or aerospace. Both are extremely competitive programs in regards to admissions. I wasn’t able to take the SAT, and while many suggest that it’s okay to apply test optional, I just see it as another weak point on my already weak application.
What I want out of my gap year:
I want to work on many parts of not just my applications, but myself and my goals. Basically, what do I even want out of my life. What do I really want to do? So during my gap year I intend to explore CS and aviation through online courses from edX, Coursera etc. and gap year internships. I want to know if I can find a middle ground or rather a way to combine both my passions into a career and college degree that would suit my goals. I also want to work on some personal projects close to me, namely my STEM Magazine, and my environmental NGO. I really want to spend time and effort on these pursuits, since they mean more for me than just extracurriculars listed on the common app. I even plan to work on them throughout university. What I see benefiting my applications tangibly: I can spend months studying for the SAT and appear in it around October. Also, I’ll have given my A-Level finals and gotten my results by then which would be far better than the predicted grades my school would send rn. Aiming for A+ in my A-Levels and a near perfect SAT score should benefit my application more than hurt. Ik travelling is usually a big part of gap years, but I simply do not have the funds for that. I may explore parts of my country for a couple of weeks with some of my other friends also taking a gap year (by some I mean two) but that’s just about it. Also, idkk if I should mention this or not but throughout the last year I’ve been facing a lot of stress and anxiety. Burnout from constant exams, stress about not being able to prove myself, and anxiety for the future. I just want to hit the brakes for some time. Give myself time to recover, do things I love, explore my interests, and most Importantly myself.
So, I personally see a lot this gap year could give me, but why am I conflicted?
Firstly, I talked to my parents and counsellors and they are not in support of it at all. My parents say that I’ll basically waste a year, and ‘coming into the job market late’ would hurt my career prospects. My counsellors say that all my reasons for a gap year are really just insignificant. They suggest that I apply to colleges right now, and then if I get in I just tell my college I want a gap year. AND that if I don’t get in I automatically take a gap year and do all the above. College applications ain’t cheap. Application fees separately and then fees to submit my CSS Profile. And I do that for 20 colleges, not just once but possibly twice?? Other things I’m worried about are the fomo of all my friends at colleges around the world and me still here, how colleges would view my gap year, and whether it might further hurt my chances.
Sorry for the long post (this is just the tip of the iceberg), but I’m REALLY conflicted on this. I just don’t know what to do, and I don’t really have time to make a decision. Either I submit my application as is right now and just hope for the best, or I take the decision of a gap year and begin planning for it. What would you suggest? Anyone who’s taken a gap year or knows someone who took it? What has your/their experience been? Should I go for it?
First of all, just wanted to say I think NOT appyling early action/decision was very wise; you are not sure what to do and just jumping to a decision is not wise and can lead to many more regrets.
Second of all, I just wanted to share that my sister is taking a gap year and it has been very successful and a great decision for her. A lot of people look down on gap years, but it may be because some students waste their gap year on partying and grocery store jobs. She had different times of mental health issues and wasn't sure what path to take in college. Taking a gap year has allowed her to explore her interests and take her time to choose carefully. She has been able to study and take the SAT and just finished the first draft of a 25-chapter book! She also plans on taking CLEP tests to test out of some general ed classes in college.
I understand the pressure you are facing; you are not in an easy place right now. I agree, there would be MUCH benefit in a gap year for you. As far as what colleges think of gap years, most often, they view them positively. A well-spent gap year produces a mature, prepared student. It also shows that you are willing to take the time to improve yourself and have the determination to do so. I strongly recommend taking a gap year.
Your parents may not understand but they do have leginimate concerns for you.If you do choose to take one, you need to create some goals and plans and STICK TO THEM. Some students go into gap years with great intentions and get sucked into laziness or partying. Stay busy and pursue things that will aid your college application later. Also, be sure to respect your parents concerns and explain kindly how this will help your career rather than hurt it and share your plans; if they know you have goals they may feel better about it (you don't plan on sitting around wasting time- you are going to use this gap to the fullest!)
Hope this helps you! And remember, carefully consider what is best for YOU and your career- no 2 students have the same path and there is no right or wrong as long as you do what will help you most. Comment if you have any more thoughts or questions! Wish you the best!! :)
Hey there @AliHasnain!
I think taking a gap year could be very beneficial to you. First of all, yes, it will give you more time to work on perfecting your application materials and making sure you put your best foot forward in all of your applications. If you can achieve good results on your A-Levels and SAT, then it will definitely benefit your application. Second of all, as @Jael_S238 said, it would give you more time to focus on goals and activities you started in high school. You could have potential research opportunities, attend summer programs, or work on a passion you've already begun to develop (such as the STEM magazine and environmental NGO). Not only would these things help strengthen your college applications when it does come time for you to apply, but it would also give you more time to grow personally and develop and refine your interests and abilities.
A gap year is not a year wasted; the amount of growth you would undergo over that year would shape your college application and prove to be very beneficial. Entering the work force one year later likely won't make a huge difference in the long-term of your career; spending a year developing your skills and interests could even benefit your future career.
Although you would miss out on being a college freshman at the same time as your current friends and peers, you would still have a few years of college overlap and will inevitably meet new people when you begin college. Also, why bother paying application fees this year if you don't want to attend college in 2024? Save your money and focus on applications for fall of 2025; there's really no point in applying now.
Lastly, as long as you fill your gap year with valuable things and experiences, it will benefit your college application overall, not harm it.
As others have mentioned it seems like a gap you could really be of benefit for you. But it's also worth noting that many scholarships are only available for high school seniors who plan to enroll in college the upcoming academic year. Don't let this make your decision for you, but do take it into account.
To keep this community safe and supportive: